How User Innovations Become Commercial Products: A Theoretical Investigation and Case Study
In this paper we model the pathways commonly traversed as user innovations are transformed into commercial products. First, one or more users recognize a new set of design possibilities and begin to innovate. They then join into communities, motivated by the increased efficiency of collective innovation. User-manufacturers then emerge, using high variable cost/low-capital production methods. Finally, as user innovation slows, the market stabilizes enough for high-capital, low variable cost manufacturing to enter. We test the model against the history of the rodeo kayak industry and find it supported. We discuss implications for "dominant design" theory and for innovation practice.